Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Affair With Testament (Part 2)

‘Before making any decision, however, he consulted the Privy Council. The spring of 1806 stood at the centre of a great crisis in the history of Europe. Less than six months before the little will was written, Britain’s hero, Admiral Lord Nelson, had died saving his nation from invasion at the battle of Trafalgar. The French army that had been waiting to be carried across the Channel had turned east. Just over a month later the armies of Britain’s allies Austria and Russia had been shattered at Austerlitz. Napoleon was the master of most Europe. At his instigation, King George’s Electorate of Hanover had been given to the Prussians. And on top of all that, Britain’s brilliant Prime Minister, William Pitt, had died heartbroken and exhausted. The coalition that replaced him, known optimistically as ‘the ministry of all the talents’, was negotiating for peace with Napoleon.

Yet at that most desperate moment, some of the men who had been entrusted with the safety of the nation were asked to devote time to discussing the implications of a will written on impulse by a lonely ten – year – old child.

To anyone who knew the truth, their judgement cannot have been encouraging. They agreed that Mrs Campbell was responsible.

Mrs Campbell was asked to resign, and Dr Nott, overwhelmed with remorse and frustration, took to his bed and stayed there for several weeks. Charlotte was told only that Mrs Campbell had resigned on grounds of ill health. She wrote in her misery to George’s mother, Lady Albemarle:

“Poor dear Mrs. Campbell is going away, for her health is so bad. If you have any regard to me, you will write to her and try to console her. Do it if you love me. I lose great deal when she leaves me. Indeed she is a charming woman, that is far above Mrs. Udney, for the more I see of Mrs. Campbell, the more I love [her], but Mrs. Udney I still continue to dislike. When you come to town I wish to have a conversation with you about her…You have no idea how unhappy I am.”

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Picture: A portrait of Charlotte as a child http://www.pinterest.com/pin/554153929121829364/

[an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers]

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The Affair With Testament (Part 1)

‘In March 1806, while they were living at Windsor, ten – year – old Charlotte went into a room where Mrs Campbell was writing at a table. When Charlotte asked what she was doing, Mrs Campbell answered that she was making her will.

“Then I’ll make mine too”, said Charlotte. And so she did, in the same childish detail as she kept her accounts.

“I make my will. First I leave all my best books, and all my books, to the Rev. Mr. Nott.
Secondly, to Mrs. Campbell my three watches and half my jewels.
Thirdly, I beg Mr. Nott, whatever money he finds me inpossession of, to distribute to the poor, and all my money I leave to the poor to them. I leave with Mr. Nott all my papers which he knows of, and I beg him to burn those which he sealed up. I beg the Prayer Book which Lady Elgin gave to me may be given to the Bishop of Exeter, and the Bible Lady Elgin gave me may be given to him also. Also all my playthings the Miss Fishers are to have. And lastly, concerning Mrs. Gagarin and Mrs. Louis, I beg that they may be very handsomly paid, and that they may have a house. Lady de Clifford the rest of my jewels, except those that are most valuable, and those I beg my father and mother, the Prince and Princess of Wales, to take. Nothing to Mrs. Udney, for reasons. I have done my will, and trust that after I am dead a great deal may be done for Mr. Nott. I hope the King will make him a Bishop.

Charlotte.
March, 1806
My birds to Mrs. Gagarin and my dog or dogs to Mrs. Anna Hatton my chambermaid.”

When Dr Nott saw the will, he entered into the spirit of the game and suggested that Charlotte was being too unkind to Mrs Udney. Charlotte agreed and added a codicil making a bequest to Mrs Udney as well. But by then, somehow – and it is not difficult to guess how – the original will had found its way into the hands of the Prince of Wales, who allowed himself to be convinced that it had been written under the influence of Mrs Campbell.

[an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers]

testament

Picture: an eighteenth century testament http://www.scottishhandwriting.com/18cTIntro.asp

Charlotte’s Education

‘”His Majesty,” wrote the King at the end of his final list, “thinks that on this plan the Princess will be surrounded with persons who will cultivate her mind, furnish it with excellent principles, and render her an honour and comfort to her relations, and a blessing to the dominions over which she may hereafter preside.” But in the long run all these people made little impression upon Charlotte’s mind: she learned what she wanted to learn, and picked up a good deal of useful information in the company of her two maids Mrs. Gagarin and Mrs. Louis.’

[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home]

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Picture: A miniature of Princess Charlotte by Richard Cosway

Mrs Udney

‘Mrs. Udney, on the other hand, was good – looking, ill – tempered and fickle. She was so fond of drink that even Charlotte noticed, and she adored gossip. According to Lord Glenbervie, who heard it from Mrs (by then Lady) Harcourt, she took one of Charlotte’s tutors as a lover. Sadly, however, he was unable to name him. In a letter to his wife, who was one of Lady Jersey’s successors as lady – in – waiting to Charlotte’s mother, he wrote, “She says Mrs Udney had an intrigue with one of the Princess Charlotte’s music or drawing masters – that they used to be lock up together in Mrs Udney’s room, which opened into the Princess’s, and that when any friend or intimate came there, and was going to open the door of communication, the Princess would say: <<You must not to try to go there. Mrs Udney and —— are there, and they always lock themselves in.>>”Although Mrs Udney tried to worm her way into Charlotte’s affection by indulging her, she was never successful. The Princess, who referred to her behind her back as “Mrs Nibs”, was unimpressed by her fondness for drink and her depravity, and she may have had other unrecorded reasons for disliking her as well. But to Lady de Clifford and Dr. Nott, Mrs Udney’s most serious weakness was her fondness for gossip. The drawing rooms of London were buzzing with scandalous stories about Charlotte’s parents, particularly her mother, and there was a real danger that sooner or later Mrs Udney might pass some of them on to her.'[an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers]’Mrs. Udney was the second sub – governess, and according to that arch – gossip, Lord Glanbervie, she had an intrigue with one of Charlotte’s masters, and they used to lock themselves into Mrs. Udney’s room, which opened out of the Princess’s. Charlotte was well aware of what was going on and would warn people not to interrupt them.

On the surface Mrs. Udney was prepossessing, but Charlotte called her Mrs. Nibbs, and never liked her. In her letters she described her as “cros”, as “a great goose”, as “selfish and bad – tempered”, “snappish and sharp”, and declared in 1811, “Contempt is not sufficient for her, for I now dislike and I am disgusted with her…” She suggests too that her sub – governess was fond of drink. When they were staying at Bognor Charlotte wrote, “I strongly suspect that she has taken some balsam (or comforting cordial) to sooth, I presume,…the voices of the little harpies that continually prey upon her inside & make her so cross. She is now gone out to walk; inhaling the pure air of the sea will, I hope, refresh her blow away some of the clowdes that are flying about her noddle.”‘

[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home]

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Picture: Mrs. Martha Udney by John Masey Wright, 1801, Yale Center For British Art